Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.
Have you ever had to write a lab report in a science class or watched a how-to video about replacing your brakes? If not, chances are you've still had some sort of experience with technical writing - a style of communication used to convey information on a specific subject and typically geared toward specialized audiences.
This writing style is often associated with relaying information concerning or via technological services, as well as with trained professionals in general. Let's look at some of the features of technical writing that set it apart from other writing styles, along with some special groups of readers of technical material.
Part of what makes technical writing so 'technical' is that an article, journal, or manual is usually geared toward a very specific audience, like lawyers, doctors, and mechanics. Some technical material is also written for a general, non-technical audience.
No matter who the audience might be, though, forms of technical writing usually share one simple goal, or purpose: to provide crucial information on a very particular subject, such as a medical condition or software issue, in the most comprehensible way possible. And, to make sure their readers understand them, technical writers typically rely on a very particular tone when conveying information.
While novels and short stories use a narrative tone to tell a story, technical writing uses a descriptive or instructive approach. Whereas their literary cousins might employ anecdotes, metaphors, and many other literary and rhetorical devices throughout their narratives, technical writers tend to exclude these tools and techniques from their work. Instead, they usually rely on concise, straightforward language to convey information and make it as reader-friendly as possible.
Even though technical writers try to convey information in a simple manner, not every reader is going to understand everything they have to say. For the most part, technical writers use straight-forward diction, or the choice and arrangement of words, and avoid using bigger or more colorful words when a simpler one will do.
Nevertheless, readers of technical writing should also be aware that there's often a considerable amount of jargon, or terms with specific usages in particular fields, that they need to learn before they can effectively comprehend and apply the text. In this next part, we'll explore some examples and special vocabulary words found in technical writing.
Anyone who's had to read a legal document or participated in a mock legislature already knows that there's almost no writing more technical than copy concerning the law. The long complex sentences frequently found in legal documents are often difficult for the average person to follow, however, legal experts see the many subordinate clauses and parenthetical comments as necessary when conveying the full extent and intent of the law.
And, let's not forget the added complications of 'legalese' - the jargon of law - much of which is derived from Latin, like habeas corpus, and subpoena, and which require specialized training to understand fully.
Most of us know that doctors' handwriting is notoriously hard to read, but that's not the only thing that can make medical documents (journals or patient records) a challenge. Just like legal documents, they have their own distinct terminology, which medical professionals have to take courses in to master.
Like legal terminology, many medical terms are also derived from Latin, Greek, or other languages (such as 'stat' or 'encephalitis'). Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals also rely on abbreviations as part of their jargon. Beyond the wording, though, medical documents are typically straightforward, especially as directness could be the key to saving a patient's life.
Technical writing can become even more 'technical' when it comes to the operation or repair manuals that teach us how to use or to repair everything from our cars and computers to stoves and smartphones. Some of these texts are clearly intended for professionals only and may include complex formulas and schematics or steps or processes not safe for the layperson to perform.
However, there are also those more suited to the everyday consumer (you probably found one with your latest game console) that might even include easy-to-follow diagrams and pictures. Either way, the tone tends to remain fairly direct since the writers of these manuals wouldn't want you trying to free a head gasket with a hammer!
Technical writing is a style of communication used to convey information on a particular subject and usually geared toward a specific purpose and specialized audience. Rather than telling a story, the tone of technical writing can often be best described as descriptive, with writers relying on concise, straightforward language to get their information across.
A technical writer's diction, or choice and arrangement of words, will also often include a considerable amount of terms with specific usages in particular fields, known as jargon. Some examples of technical writing include legal documents, medical documents, and operation or repair manuals.
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